Saturday, July 13, 2019

GEF - Does it Really Work?

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) sees itself as "an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues".

For those who are familiar with the nuts and bolts of International Development, GEF is an important source of funding. Since its establishment in 1991-92, the organisation has provided over $18.1 billion in grants and mobilised an additional $94.2 billion in co-financing for more than 4500 projects in 170 countries.

India is one of the 170 countries that has been implementing GEF projects. How effective has it been here?

Relative to the global figures, India's share seems to be rather modest - 102 projects worth USD 0.732  billion in GEF grants and USD 7.7 b in 'additional co-financing', which is mostly from the country's own resources.

The range of projects is quite impressive though. 73 national projects, 27 regional ones and two under the 'Special Climate Change Fund' (SCCF). Take a loser look and you get the impression that the actual output and impact of many projects is vague and nebulous.

Take for instance one of the earliest GEF projects implemented in India - Biomass Energy for Rural India (BERI) implemented during 2000 - 2012. The project was supposed to build 60 x 20kW biomass gasifier units to supply electricity for 2,500 households in 28 villages of Tumkur district in Karnataka. It was expected to replace so many million tons of carbon di-oxide equivalent (CO2e). However, after 12 years of effort, the cost of producing electricity from biomass (INR 7.8/kWh) was so high - more than double the cost of regular supply from the state grid (INR 2.85/kWh) - that the project ended up like a damp squib.

One of the most visible changes in India in terms of energy efficiency, has been the replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs, and then LEDs. We have now reached a stage where most shops don't even stock the cheaper, inefficient bulbs. LEDs have become the first preference for the whole spectrum of users - street vendors have switched from kerosine fired lanterns to LEDs, town municipalities have switched streetlights en masse from sodium-vapour to LEDs.

Did GEF have any role to play in this sweeping change? Or was this initiative led completely by the local governments?

One of the 73 projects seems to have had an important role in this transformation - the GEF-ADB project for supporting Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL). This agency was instrumental in aggregating demand, and promoting bulk production of LED bulbs which led to a sharp reduction in the cost of energy efficient bulbs. LED bulbs now command a 75% share of the lighting market in India.

Over 300 million LED bulbs and 6.35 million LED streetlights have been distributed and installed through EESLs initiatives across India. This one intervention is estimated to have reduced India's carbon footprint by no less than 60 million CO2e - a part of the country's commitment to reduce its footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels, by 2030.

Not all projects may work as expected, but the gains from the ones that do certainly seems to make GEF's interventions worthwhile.


- GEF Projects -

- Climate Change FAQs -

- LEDs powers India's dtive for household energy efficiency -

- Video - From Small to Big Impact -

- BERI Project 2000 -

- BERI Terminal Report (2013). -

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